Monday, October 16, 2006

Digital Fad

Former Express editor Richard Addis isn't buying everything on offer in the digital newspaper revolution.

Addis is writing in the Independent about the Daily Telegraph and its "digital revolution", on which subject has been a lot written about recently, centring particularly on multimedia convergence.

He isn't sceptical about the whole thing just part of it and rightly so.

Against a background of crumbing old media, and the prospect of all titles, even the Financial Times and The Guardian and The New York Times, becoming free in the not too distant future, he talks about two ideas that are dominating the digital debate.

The first is convergence and the other is citizen journalism or user-generated content. To his mind the first is a fad and the second is really going to rock the boat.

I couldn't agree more, as I've said a few times recently, there is a big future for UGC/citizen journalism. And even more recently about some of the problems UGC faces.

On the other front though, that of multimedia converged journalism where print reporters become broadcasters and camera men there is less of a future.

It all sounds rather like David Montgomery's Academy of Excellence at Trinity Mirror, do you remember that? He was going to get rid of production journalists and have reporters write them straight onto the page.

This idea failed terribly. For similar reasons Addis sees problems with the converged multimedia journalist.

"The most important point is that all types of journalism are a deep craft. Journalists know this. Management consultants tend not to. The problem is that in a business crisis like the one we're having now, the consultants get powerful.

"There are myriads of small skills involved in writing a good headline or producing a decent story that are individually not especially complex but collectively make all the difference. These skills do not transfer well from print to radio or from video to column writing.

"The second point is that convergence encourages the wrong kind of journalism. The stuff that does translate well is precisely the stuff that we want less of, the journalism of very little value. We're all sick of commoditised news. What we're hungry for is insight, wit, personality, attitude. That is precisely what dies first on the multimedia spokes. And then to cap it all, the fabled efficiencies are vastly over-rated. Fewer Jacks of all Trades are very seldom more efficient than a greater number of Masters of Some. Particularly now when part-time and freelance and home working is so much easier and more prevalent and there are Masters for hire all over the place."

You can see where he's going, but hey it's a learning curve and a time of experimentation and all of the newspaper groups are trying new things as digital development takes the lead.

The last but one great revolution of newspapers has come (tabloids/compacts and Berliners) and this all in the same week that Guardian Media Group has renamed its national newspaper division, which comprises The Guardian, The Observer and digital arm Guardian Unlimited, as Guardian News & Media.

Did you see what it did? It dropped the word "newspaper". GMG said the changes reflected the growth of its multimedia and online activities since 2001. GNL has undergone major new-media expansions in the past five years, with the launch of numerous websites, and the decision to rename is part of that change.

Update: There's just no stopping the Telegraph. Today it announced it has hired Shaun Gregory, former managing director of national brands at Emap Radio, in what Media Weeek says is a move is expected to see the newspapers' "multi-tasking newsroom contribute bulletins to linear TV news programmes".

His appointment follows a deal with ITN to produce video content for, which is expected to be expanded into linear TV programming that could lead to a new television channel, featuring Telegraph content that is likely to be broadcast online initially with a view to securing carriage on the Freeview and Sky digital platforms.

Telegraph TV on your EPG? Who has the time.


At 10:46 AM, Anonymous Sass-sure said...

Well that name change really is fascinating. Semantics hey!

Surely the concept of what a 'newspaper' is will just change. It'll just signify something other than news on paper. But that doesn't mean we have to stop using the word, merely that we must remember that linguistic meaning is arbitary. Food for thought anyway.

At 3:21 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

hang on where's the bit about fidgiting dads?

At 3:21 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

who has the time?

At 11:04 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I didn't feel Richard Addis backed up his points very well. Sure, we're all against news / content being commoditized, but as long as the editor's doing his job properly, quality shouldn't be an issue.

Be realistic - Will Lewis knows that the print title is currently the most important product. I think he's made the right decision to try to meet the needs of readers who want to extend the Telegraph experience beyond the morning paper. To many, The Telegraph is a trusted voice / friend - why not cater for people who want to engage with that friend more than once a day?

At 5:16 PM, Anonymous darth said...

once again Kenobi harps on about print, once again in an online form. why not write a letter to the blog kenobi?

mmm the force is strong with this one


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